At Rickshaw Travel we are proud to give something back to the countries we visit. When our Brazil Specialist Ross recently started a trip in Rio, he stopped by Casa de Santa Ana, the local project we support in Brazil. Find out how this great community initiative is helping to improve conditions and welfare within the infamous favela, the City of God.
Entering the City of God
My guide, Rodrigo collected me from my hotel in the morning to be taken to the project that Rickshaw support – Casa de Santa Ana, based within the heart of the infamous favela,‘The City of God’, made famous by the award-winning film. Whilst driving through Rio’s rich, segregated communities to reach the City of God Rodrigo explained to me how the film has caused the residents more problems than good as the association of gang warfare has left many residents unemployable and plagued by violence, with the rich community shutting their doors and eyes to the problems in the favela.
Learning about life in a favela
Arriving into to a dusty town with dilapidated buildings and patches of graffiti and I was to understand symbols from the gangs of the past, bullet holes still present in the walls and litter a huge problem with a lack of irrigation and education leaving it a hard place to live. Rodrigo is an energetic man who seemed to be loved by all, he explained to me that the favela has become much safer in recent years, especially when with a guide, but is not a place to walk around on your own. A large rubbish filled river splits the city within a city (and at one time the two local gangs), and along our walk we see a man selling fish on the side of the road and I hope that they have not been caught in this very river…
No one is forgotten
We walk through dusty roads taking in the small homes and smiling faces. Arriving at a small house we entered through a side door into a quaint kitchen area with tables laid out ready for lunch. This is the Casa de Santa Ana, a project set up for the elderly in the City of God. It is the local project that Rickshaw Travel support in Brazil and is extremely important to me, as it focuses on the supporting the elderly, a cause that is overlooked in so many countries with Brazil being no exception. In an extremely poor area such as the favelas of Rio the amenities for the elderly are much worse, and with a lack of good sanitation, healthcare or even homes, this project means the elderly are not forgotten.
A real sense of community
The organisation primarily helps the elderly integrate with each other on a daily basis; giving them somewhere to go and meet, have a coffee, a decent meal and to be looked after by a loving family. They now have two homes, the second also offers healthcare for the residents, a physiotherapist on-site and a happy atmosphere.
The work that happens at Casa de Santa Ana goes much further than supporting the elderly, whole families are involved wherever possible. Keeping children out of local gangs is a real focus and the project offers ballet lessons for both the girls and boys to learn discipline and dedication, and even a 73-year-old lady joins them on a weekly basis! The teacher offering the classes is from a leading ballet school in the city and provides her service voluntarily – she has even supplied them with over forty pairs of her old ballet shoes (if only everyone had the same sized feet!).
After the tour through the two homes I joined the family and residents for dinner and though limited English was spoken and my Portuguese was even less I felt truly welcome into this family environment. It was really touching and perhaps with the support of the international community the City of God can become a name that is no longer feared.
Casa de Santa Ana is a project that provides better education within the young community and gives the elderly the chance to have the support they deserve in their later life. Most importantly, it creates an environment where the residents can feel self-sufficient and active – and not lonely and isolated.
You can visit the Casa de Santa Ana on appointment on our 3 day Rio trip.